2010 winds to a close. And though I only saw about half as much theater (and concerts and nightclub acts) as I did in 2009, I still saw enough to make a solid Top 10 list.
Here – in reverse order of preference – are the best theatrical experiences of the past 12 months:
10: “Oedipus el Rey” at the Magic Theater
This retelling of the Oedipus story in the barrio and prison culture of Hispanic gangs was beautifully staged and performed. Poetic and haunting.
9: Alan Cumming at the Castro Theater
A night of dishy fun. Cumming sang, told jokes, ragged on celebrity culture – all quite expertly.
8. David Sedaris at Berkeley Rep
This was a simple evening: just David talking and reading from his (then) forthcoming new book, “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary.” What sort of surprised me was how kind and generous David was – he signed books for absolutely everyone who wanted it, and chatted and laughed with his fans both before and after the reading.
7. “Palomino” at the Aurora Theater
Solo performer David Cale did a brilliant job (both in writing and performing) with this piece about an Irish hansom cab driver in Central Park who becomes an escort on the side. Cale played the driver and all the women who loved/hired him. Funny and insightful and wonderfully-constructed.
6. “Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?” at The Jewish Theater of San Francisco
Another one-man show, another great success. Kornbluth has made me laugh about as hard as anyone ever has. This show wasn’t as roaringly-funny as, say, “Red Diaper Baby,” but the cultural insights more than made up for the somewhat reduced humor quotient.
5. “The Brothers Size” at the Magic Theater
One of the trilogy of the Brother/Sister plays, this was my favorite of the bunch. All broke down not the fourth wall, but the first wall, taking us inside the mind of the playwright, sensing his intentions – even as those intentions were being realized right in front of us.
4. “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” at Cal Shakes
Just a restaging of one of George Bernard Shaw’s lesser-performed works, but it was so ably done, and I love Shaw so much that it had to go on the list.
3. “In The Wake” at Berkeley Rep
Set in the Bush years, this show examined the effects of politics and culture on the lives of people who feel they have the power to effect change in those areas but come to realize they are as inconsequential as every other individual without vaults of cash or far-reaching political influence.
2. “Equivocation” at Marin Theater Company
A celebration of language and art, set in the world of Shakespeare and his company of actors. Fun, challenging, entertaining – a smart but thoroughly enjoyable evening.
1. “The Real Americans” at The Marsh
Dan Hoyle (son of great physical actor Geoff Hoyle) created easily my favorite show of the year. Dan spent several months driving around the heartland of America looking for old-fashioned country wisdom – but discovered so much more. Racism, xenophobia, ignorance…but also sincerity and compassion. What’s more, his skewer didn’t spare his intellectual Bay Area aesthetes, either.
This will be staged at Berkeley Rep this year, so you will have another chance to see it. Do so.